Henry David Thoreau once stated, “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” While I appreciate this quote, I think that it perhaps puts too much emphasis on the seed (or idea) alone. While a seed is necessary, I feel that attention should turn towards the roots (processes, goals, human capital, etc.) that single seed can lead to developing.
In fact, this observation reminds me of the recent Western Carolina University Leadership Development tour of the Cradle of Forestry in Western North Carolina, where I learned of the approach to life (and development) that an oak tree will adopt. Interestingly, in its first approximately 20 – 25 years of life an oak tree will spend ~70% – 80% of its energy and resources developing a robust and pervasive root system. In this example, while the seed is the starting point, it is the root system of a future, mighty oak that serves as the real genius of its development.
I think it is important to reflect on the oak tree’s approach to life. Instead of growing tall and strong first, the oak tree stays small and chooses initially to grow deep, deep into the earth. An oak tree grows with their long or end game in mind, not for the instant gratification and short-term results. This approach to life carries a lesson for all of us as human beings, but takes on a particularly relevant lesson for those of us who, as Machiavelli stated, “choose to take on a new order of things” in the form of innovation and entrepreneurship.
For example, when you think about an entrepreneurial venture, what you see standing above the surface is but a fraction of the energy and results of the effort invested in that organization or idea. For the purpose of this article, the primary components of a start-up’s root system are as follows:
• Value Proposition – identifies an aspect of your product/service that makes your offering appealing to potential customers and helps sell and market that product. This serves as the cornerstone to your venture.
• Talent Development/Cultivation – a basic strategy for bringing in, developing, inspiring, and maintaining the best talent associated with your venture with the greater goal of sustainability. Additionally, talent development can help maintain consistency, trust, and more exceptional customer service or product development, while aligning with the application of your value proposition.
• Strategic/Business Plan – frames your venture in a standard way by providing objectives and methods/strategies for reaching them. This is a recognized document that potential funders can relate to and it serves as a more accurate and robust expansion of your idea/product, the value proposition, and the stakeholders involved.
Finally, as an entrepreneur, the most valuable lesson to take away from the mighty oak is to remember to stay true to your roots. By doing this, you will invest your time, energy, expertise, and resources into your roots. If you nurture your roots, they can support you as you continue to grow to new heights and new depths!